Monday Aug 06, 2007

Perspective and History

Interesting article on Project Indiana -- Indiana's Calling, Is Anyone Listening? The first sentence of the article is most fascinating for me: "Telling the story of Project Indiana is not an easy one."

Ha. I'll bet. The article then goes on to talk about how many commentators are seeing all this from the perspective of Linux. Well, of course they are, my goodness. That's been the case for several years now. In fact, this is probably the most significant messaging issue around OpenSolaris -- and Solaris, for that matter -- since we started the project. I can remember arguing for a year before we opened that we should not fuel this issue by criticizing or comparing ourselves to Linux in any way whatsoever. Just get people focusing on OpenSolaris, growing our community organically, and praising the Linux community for the outstanding job they've done (which they clearly have). Not that anyone listened, but that was basically my pitch. In other words, we should just shut up and build our community, which we knew would take years so just get started. I figured that we needed to lead with humility as the single most important element in order to have any shot at earning our own credibility so we wouldn't always be seen from the perspective of Linux.

Well, two years later I can see that my efforts in this area were basically meaningless -- for both good and bad reasons. The Good: The engineers participating all along didn't need the lecture since they got the concept of community building because they were already a community. That's been cool to see (but we have a lot more to do). The Bad: Market perception had already moved well beyond seeing OpenSolaris from the perspective of OpenSolaris. Instead, it would be compared to Linux in almost every way possible, and changing this would take years. Plus, our own flamers (the distinct minority who clearly lack credibility) did their very best to continue picking fights with Linux and distracting the OpenSolaris community on our very own lists. Oh, well. What saved us? A few things. OpenSolaris was credible early on because of the advanced nature of the code and the distinct lack of hype from Sun. Plus, everyone thought we'd fail. Also we didn't have a king or anything, so everyone who participated shared pretty equally in the conversations. That's what defines the leadership model on OpenSolaris, by the way. It's distributed widely and not focused on any one individual. Anyway, OpenSolaris was just an engineering project focusing on the phased opening of code and infrastructure to build a little community around the concept of open development. That's it. In that respect, we've been successful, and we've been slowly earning our credibility as we build our community. Cool.

Yet as Sun hired a big Linux name in Ian Murdock a few months ago, we've clearly started generating a lot more press coverage as a result, and along with that comes the inevitable comparisons to Linux. Yet again. Sigh. The increased attention is good, of course, and it will be interesting to see how much longer the media market sees OpenSolaris through a Linux lens. Clearly, a lot more coverage is coming, so I hope we can finally overcome this Linux perspective because the project has been standing on its own feet for two years now and deserves to be seen from the perspective of it's own successes and failures. So, if Indy's ideas can successfully build on the good work that has gone before, that would be a welcome contribution.

Ok, back to the article and this quote right here: "'We came into this with an understanding of what we needed to do, which was in a world where so many more people know Linux than Solaris, how do we figure out how to make the wonderful technology in Solaris more accessible?' Murdock explained. To break the Project down, Indiana is meant to create a binary distribution of OpenSolaris within the OpenSolaris community, not inside Sun proper. This is not to say Sun employees aren't involved in the process. Teams within Sun are working on various aspects of the project, such as installation, packaging, and GNU userland. In fact, Murdock said, some of these efforts have been going on for some time."

The "distro" part of that paragraph is somewhat confusing since Sun already has a binary distro (all distros here), and we've been working toward open development for two years, so none of that is new. But I think people get the point that the distro model will be changing, and that's explained pretty well elsewhere. And there are parts of that change that are very appealing and will help grow the OpenSolaris community significantly. Regardless, the most important, part here is the recognition that much of this work has been underway for some time now. And the fact that it's being highlighted now is cool.

Anyway, it's a pretty good article on some of the evolutionary changes coming to OpenSolaris. A lot of us are looking forward to the Indy project coming to fruition along with many other projects in the OpenSolaris community that have been underway for a couple of years. The SCM migration is probably the most important, actually, and the most challenging, too. But as we grow and evolve and look forward, we need to keep looking back from time to time to understand the perspective of our history. It's difficult to keep these things straight in a world of so many changing messages.

More on Indy here and more on some of the related projects here as well. Many additional links at both locations.

Sunday Aug 05, 2007

Community News II

A follow up to the Community News post.

The Advocacy CG now is now responsible for maintaining the news page on That page on the site was flying well under the radar for a long time, but I think now that OpenSolaris is generating a lot more press coverage, we'll be more active in posting and commenting on news directly on the site. Commenting about news coverage in individual blogs is fine but it's not focused, so we still need a detailed history of news coverage that lives on the site itself. As we grow into a community of general users complementing all the developers and administrators, we'll need this repository well maintained. Also, I opened a new mail list -- news-discuss -- for the posting and discussion of any news-related items about OpenSolaris around the world. Ok, that may be a bit ambitious, but you get the idea. And finally, the three Advocacy News Maintainers are Terri Molini, Joe G, and Bob Wientzen, and they volunteered via an open discussion in the Advocacy CG. They will evolve the news page and any necessary processes in collaboration with the community.

Thursday Aug 02, 2007

Eco Poll

This is cool. Sun sponsored a poll on environmental responsibility at work -- New Poll Reveals 73 Percent of U.S. Workers Want Employers To Be Environmentally Responsible But Lag In Own Efforts To Help: "By Leaving Eco-friendly Habits at Home, U.S. Workers Waste An Estimated $4.3 Billion in Energy Costs Per Year Resulting in 32 Million Tons of CO2 Emissions"

That's a lot of CO2. Turn off the lights, everyone. And your computers, too. I never understood why desktop machines had to run all nite long, all weekend long, all vacation long. Makes no sense.

Anyway, we had a little chit-chat on opensolaris-discuss about how Sun does marketing, and one community member is not happy about Sun's advertising efforts. He's wrong, of course, and I explained why, but then I gave up after a while because he was just flaming at that point. But this poll is an innovative way to engage the market in a conversation, eh? Generate some news. Create some real data. Use the data in ads, press releases, sales engagements, etc. Change a little behavior and save some money along the way and help build a market for our energy-saving servers and all that. Works for me.

Community News

Here's a proposal for the OpenSolaris Community to maintain the news page on, and there are a few people who have responded positively. Cool. This will be the first time a top level page on will be maintained by the community in an open process. Expect this trend to continue. Also, what's cool about this is that as OpenSolaris grows to engage more general users around the world, international communications will become more important than ever.

Tuesday Jul 31, 2007

Marketing Hype or Opportunity?

Sun's 'Project Copy Linux' not a Linux copy: "Sun spent months and months hyping Solaris 10 ahead of its release in 2005. The OS included some ground-breaking features such as DTrace and ZFS that Sun continues to flaunt today. The company has been unusually silent about the tools Solaris 11 will bring, making us wonder if OpenSolaris hasn't been a distraction from the core OS. You can see some of the discussed Nevada features here." -- Ashlee Vance, The Register

Oh, I think we hyped S10 for way more than just "months and months." Wasn't it more like a year or something? Anyway, it was worth it. But Ashlee hits on a good point -- distraction.

Our pre-S10 hype was traditional marketing, basically. The source was closed, development was all inside the firewall, and there really wasn't a community. All information had to flow through filters, and the information that was release was carefully screened and targeted. Now, however, the source is open, there is a growing global community, and development is starting to move outside (and many projects are already outside). So, how do you market -- hype -- all that stuff since it's already open for all to see and even participate in? Also, OpenSolaris isn't a distraction from the core OS. Actually, OpenSolaris is the core os. What can be a distraction, though, is trying to organize all the noise and conversations and source and binaries and projects and people into a coherent package that can be delivered in the form of hype. That's marketing. And that's extremely difficult on a project the scale of OpenSolaris. Before, you couldn't see all of the mess (in the best sense of the term, of course) because it was all hidden inside and only dribbled out via information gatekeepers. But now, it's pretty much all just out there. And more is coming when core kernel development itself moves external (the main ON gate operations, I mean, which is huge). From a marketing perspective, I think we are just now beginning to get a handle on how challenging this is. And what a big opportunity it is as well.

Friday Jul 20, 2007

Pressure Questions

Michael Dell tries to reboot Dell Computer: "During the interview, Fortune editor Andy Serwer asked Dell if he's been approached by any private equity firms about a potential buyout. Dell went quiet, smiled, looked to his PR person, looked back, and said, 'I'm not sure how to answer that.' And so, he didn't answer." -- Jia Lynn Yang, Fortune.

Pretty funny. But a good lesson for anyone dealing with the press and analysts. Even extremely experienced executives used to pressure interviews get caught off guard from time to time. It's actually nothing to laugh at. These guys have to choose their words carefully and for good reason. Even in this so-called age of open conversations, interviews are rarely conversations. Especially if you are in Dell's position right now. Also, unless you've been in a stressful media spotlight, it's difficult to judge those who are.

Sunday Jun 24, 2007


The Future of PR is Participation, Not Pitching -- "To thrive in this new distributed environment, the PR community must step out in front of the curtain, become a bit more technically adept and participate transparently as individuals in online communities." -- Steve Rubel

Tuesday May 01, 2007

More OpenSolaris and GPL

Interesting (though somewhat inaccurate in spots) article in BusinessWeek -- Sun Mulls Deeper Open-Source Dive. What's interesting about it is that no one in the article is actually saying we are "mulling a deeper open source drive" or anything of the sort. Should be an interesting time at JavaOne, though, with all the communities getting together at CommunityOne. I'll be there. And I'm sure there will be a lot of these sorts of articles between now and then, too. But I wonder ... do serious developers and customers and partners pay attention to stuff like this? I'm mixed. Some people tell me the media speculation is garbage and they ignore it, but others get quite animated about it. Who knows. I've never really seen it quantified, so I suppose it will remain a mystery.

Tuesday Mar 20, 2007

Ian Murdock and OpenSolaris

Ian Murdock joined Sun today -- or yesterday for the other half of the world. He introduced himself to the OpenSolaris Community as well, which I thought was a classy thing to do.

Many times announcements are proclaimed from the outside with little consideration for the community. But I think this is an example of Sun's move into innovative marketing that is much closer to the spirit of open source. I also think it demonstrates Ian's desire to get to know the OpenSolaris community from the inside as he figures things out in his new job. I didn't see a Sun press release today, which wouldn't have been a bad thing, per say, but sometimes press releases slow things down and make things too formal and corporate. Instead, Sun marketing and PR clearly enabled the developers to take the lead on this. That's how OpenSolaris was launched two years ago, by the way. But then again, Sun marketing and PR are part of the community so it makes sense.

I have every confidence that Ian will work from within the community and help us address some rather, ah, interesting issues swirling around here. Ian is joining the community at a pretty important time, I'd say.

Welcome, Ian. I look forward to meeting you and learning from your experience.

Friday Feb 16, 2007


Robert Scoble on leaks -- "Remember when I posted Steve Ballmer’s email to all employees? I actually had permission to do so from the PR team. Sometimes "leaks" aren't leaks at all. They are press events designed to get the company’s point of view out to the world." This is a good distinction, I think, because real leaks are bad and are generally done by people who have no idea what they are doing. Also, if your company participates in open communities, there's no reason to leak since, presumably, a great deal of your operations are already occurring in the open.

Wednesday Oct 18, 2006

Corporate Blogging

Interesting article on CNN/Money about corporate blogging that's done right and done wrong. I'm not sure why some companies are getting themselves into trouble with this form of communication. It seems really simple to me, but hey, we all make mistakes so it's hard to be hard on someone attempting to be more transparent. And I understand the recent PR example quite well because I know that business and those errors speak for themselves. For a nice review of that one, check out Dave Taylor's piece from the other day. It's a piece I tend to agree with a great deal .

Sun, on the other hand, seems to be just surfing right along with blogging. I think I have a theory as to why -- Sun grew from the community so it understands how to behave within a community, and we have a large number of engineers participating in communities of all kinds -- some Sun run, some run by other vendors, some run by standards bodies, and some by foundations. All these interactions take place on open mail lists or forums. So, when blogging came along it was really nothing new, and people seemed ready and eager to get going. It was just a new way of doing what they had been doing in the past -- communicating openly and honestly. Not perfectly, but openly and honestly for sure. And that can take you a long way.

Monday Sep 25, 2006

Stats and Quotes on OpenSolaris

There are some really nice quotes in this article about OpenSolaris -- Google testing Sun's OpenSolaris, sources say. There is a lot of activity around Solaris, Solaris Express, and OpenSolaris now. And there's lots of Solaris out there for people to choose from based on what the need is. Very nice. And a very nice article, too. Well balanced.

A note on statistics: There's a part in this article where the writer compares OpenSolaris to Linux and OpenOffice -- the implication being that we're not as successful in building a developer community around OpenSolaris. Ah. Let's see. Linux has been open for how long? And OpenOffice how long? And OpenSolaris? Ok. But the larger point is expressed by Stephen Hahn: "Why do all open source communities have to look the same?" Hahn said. "I would rather have 1,000 developers working together than 12 different Solaris distributions." I agree. And the stats we release are not intended to be compared to anyone. In fact, whenever anyone asks me who I'm comparing OpenSolaris to I always respond that I'm comparing OpenSolaris to OpenSolaris. A friend of mine in PR laughed at me for that, but I'm serious. I wouldn't even know how to compare OpenSolaris to any other community. Would you? Considering all the variables, I mean. Everyone's so different. Different licenses. Different business models. Different technology. Different development methodologies. Different leadership frameworks. Different time periods. Different geographies. Now, I look to a variety of other communities to learn about community building, sure, but I could care less about comparing stats and then drawing conclusions. But even more practically, I can hardly even keep up with OpenSolaris let alone try to figure out who has more of this or that. That's probably the real reason.

Monday Sep 04, 2006


Interesting -- Microsoft's PR agency admits it doesn't "get" blogs!. What's not to get about blogging this late in 2006? Just blog. The lessons are obvious, immediate, painful, humbling, powerful, exciting, and [insert your favorite lesson here]. But you can't understand blogging from the outside looking in, so don't bother trying. In this case, understanding comes through direct experience, not observation. Which means you have to blog. Only then will your opinions change or at least be based on something substantial. And if you hate it, that's fine. It's not for everyone. But who am I to talk. I "don't get" Web 2.0, so maybe WaggEd shouldn't listen to me, eh?

Sunday Sep 03, 2006

The Biology of Marketing

In Free Market Economy? John Dodds comments on an article talking about the new viral marketing -- Beyond Viral: Using The Web To Nurture 'Contagious Behavior' Among Customers. It's a fascinating little article with a few words that just jump off the page and gag me.

I like John's position that too often people think of "marketing" as simply "promotion" when in reality the field is far more strategic than that. I've been guilty of this incorrect perception on occasion as well. But I think that all too often marketing deserves this mischaracterization, and in high tech Silicon Valley this is so easy to substantiate. So, it goes both ways. However, I've always said that really talented marketers are worth their weight in gold because they are strategic and bridge disparate groups. And because of that unique position they can many times spot new possibilities for connections that others simply miss. It's wonderful to observe this. Great marketers don't get lost in message making, too. They are strategic by nature, and they see marketing as the thread that ties together the entire business.

I see the intent of the article that John is pointing to, and I support the direction that those marketers are moving. On some levels they are improving and that's good. But what's up with all of these biological references? When marketers use terms like "contagiousness" or "infection" or "viral" or "seed" to describe any marketing activity, they are doing two things: (1) talking to themselves and (2) insulting everyone else. Yes, I know, some really famous marketers use these terms and get lots of attention in the process, but this is exactly why marketing gets bad publicity from those outside the field. Many people feel those terms articulate an attempt to manipulate customers, or in this case to manipulate the powerful dynamics of emerging communities of customers. A good example of this from software marketing is the term "developer capture" that I hear from time to time. It's insulting. Developers don't want to be captured. Do they? I don't think so.

I much prefer terms like community building or facilitation or engagement. Ok, they are somewhat more boring than infecting someone with a virus so they are highly contagious, but what can I say. I'm a boring guy and I don't like being sick. Regardless of the terms used, though, what's most important is that the language reflect the concept of participation, not manipulation. And that's what I'm not getting from this article. The issue is inches away, though. I can feel it. But the comments in the piece still represent marketing as being on the outside of the community, not right in the middle if it all. At least community dynamics are recognized, though, so that's a great improvement over a few years ago.

Wednesday Aug 16, 2006

IBM Attacks OpenSolaris -- Again

Well, there they go again. IBM kicked OpenSolaris again -- IBM says Sun's open source strategy lacks support. This latest effort comes to us from LinuxWorld in San Francisco courtesy of Scott Handy, who also attacked OpenSolaris last year, and Dan Frye. Their statements about our community only represent their own ignorance because their rhetoric is so easily undermined. It's a shame, though, don't you think? IBM should be applauded for their efforts in the Apache, Linux, and Eclipse communities (and others, I'm sure), but I'm having a difficult time praising them since they seem so mean spirited toward OpenSolaris. We're not going away, guys. In fact, we're only getting bigger and stronger every day. But actually, from a community point of view, I think we've been somewhat humble this first year. We are trying to build a community that leads with technology, not spin. Maybe that's just my hope, but I think we've largely done a pretty good job of respecting others.

I don't know very many people at IBM, but I did have the opportunity to interact with some IBM engineers one time, and they were absolute professionals. Oh, well. What can I say. I commented on a previous attack from IBM's Ross Mauri last week. Most of that applies here as well. Just to keep the continuity going here ...

Saturday Aug 05, 2006

IBM's Ross Mauri

Ross Mauri, general manager of IBM's System p group, takes a shot at OpenSolaris in a Q&A interview with Cnet yesterday -- Newsmaker: Firing up IBM's Unix business. Jump to the very last question on page two for this little gem:

Do you ever consider open-sourcing AIX the way Sun is open-sourcing Solaris?
Mauri: No, we're not. I think that OpenSolaris is a little bit of a game Sun is playing to try to get good PR. But I don't think it's in the spirit of true open source.

We have been very happy to get directly involved and contribute to Linux and Apache and the Eclipse Foundation. We're not going to open-source AIX. It's best run on the current model, where we have the expertise. We enhance it. We work closely with our customers to listen to their requirements. But in the end, it's best that we control that source code.

Any substantiation for any of those references to OpenSolaris, Ross? I love the "in the spirit of true open source" bit, though. It's code for those afraid of being direct. Whatever.

This response fascinates me, though. Rhetorically, Ross has himself all boxed in here, which can easily happen when you're distracted by attacking others. Remember, competitive attacks are more difficult to pull off than most people realize. I've only met a few people who could deliver them effectively, too.

Stephen Shankland (the reporter) didn't ask Ross if Sun was playing PR games with OpenSolaris, and he didn't ask if OpenSolaris was "true" or not. The emphasis of the question was on AIX, not OpenSolaris. He asked if IBM had considered opening AIX like Sun had opened Solaris. Pretty clean question. Ok, you could argue that the question may presuppose that IBM should open AIX like Sun opened Solaris, but it's pretty subtle and easily ignored. But even leaving out OpenSolaris, it's a perfectly logical question to ask given IBM's investment in Linux and AIX.

Anyway, instead of answering the question by focusing on AIX development and IBM's customers and engineers, Ross uses the opportunity to first attack OpenSolaris by saying it's a "PR" move and a "game" and not "true" open source. Huge mistake. Now he has to go back to AIX and answer the substance of the question. But to be credible, everything he says should be consistent with the reasoning behind what he said while attacking OpenSolaris. This is where he drowns. In an effort to substantiate himself, Ross provides examples of communities that his company contributes to, which by itself is fine. However, juxtaposed against the untrue OpenSolaris,  we are led to believe that Linux, Apache, and Eclipse are the "true" open source. Perhaps. But people usually compare OpenSolaris with Linux, and I think that's what Ross intended here but decided to toss in Apache and Eclipse for good measure. Who knows. The trouble is that he actually undermines his own statement about OpenSolaris since all three communities he cites are licensed differently, and two of them don't fit with what Ross appears to mean by "true" open source. And if that's not what he means and Apache and Eclipse are also "true" open source, then OpenSolaris should also be described as "true" by that definition as well. I mean, is Mozilla "true" open source in Ross's opinion? I don't know. Maybe not.

The result is that Ross demonstrates his own lack of knowledge about OpenSolaris -- PR is actually not that involved, it's an engineering community from top to bottom, it's open source as specified by OSI (they don 't offer a "true" category as of yet), and we don't play games with the company's core technology. Sorry, Ross. You don't know what you are talking about, and this is a PR disaster for you. But delicious nonetheless.

Now, Ross is probably a smart guy. He probably runs a pretty large organization at IBM, and you can't do that without being smart. So, I can respect him for that. But even smart guys can sound foolish when they lack competitive rhetorical skills and get distracted by attacking others. None of this would have happened had Ross simply focused on IBM and AIX and ignored OpenSolaris. However, I do think he has to work on his AIX/Linux answer, though. Although IBM has consistently stated that its strategy with AIX is to keep development closed (which is a perfectly fine business decision), I think the reason Ross offers undermines his statements supporting the benefits of open source development. I mean, open source is supposedly good for Linux, Apache, and Eclipse, but it's simultaneously bad for AIX because the AIX code needs "control" by the "expertise" at IBM? I don't get that. And OpenSolaris? Well, that's so low it's a "game" not even worthy of being "true" so it's dismissed with contempt.

But maybe I'm reading too much into it.

Tuesday Jul 25, 2006

Helping Doc

Thank you, Doc Searls, for rescuing markets from marketing -- Markets without Marketing. The two need not have anything to do with each other now.  I've always disagreed with the assertion that marketing owns markets. One has lived forever and will continue to thrive despite the other and go on to serve new generations, while the other is no longer effective and will not survive much longer (at least in its present form) because it doesn't understand what the other one is. Practiced traditionally, marketing many times does more does more harm than good and uses entirely too many resources in the process. Really great marketers have always been able to transcend marketing, though, and those guys are extremely valuable to any organization or any community.

In Doc's article, he's looking for some examples of great marketing in this new age of open for his talk at OSCON in Portland. I'm not in marketing, but I can think of many examples from the OpenSolaris project. But I wouldn't term them as "marketing" because they were all done by a mixture of program managers, engineers, executives, marketers, and non-Sun developers and system administrators. Also, they were all based in simple, open, and direct communications. Messages were rejected. Focus groups were rejected. Press releases were largely silent. Top down dictatorial management was absent. There were very few filters, and almost none as the project matured. Engineering led the effort, and engineers made all the important decisions since the program was designed to engage developers. Interactions were done in the open in a variety of forums -- conferences, blogs, mail lists, customer briefings -- and were diversified and distributed horizontally, not vertically. Launch activities were discussed with the community on open lists, and the engineers led the launch in every important way with literally hundreds of blogs. Anniversary activities were planned and implemented openly as well. Highly technical SCM discussions and evaluations are taking place in the open as well as governance and development discussions. Again, no filters. Now, was it all perfect? No. We got more open as we learned and experimented, and we got better at it as we went along. But was it a big step for a big corporation? Absolutely. Was it marketing? No. But did marketing participate? Yes. And that's the key. Participation in a market no longer takes place through a funnel. It's distributed and multidimensional, and there's probably no need to call it "marketing" any more. 

I've written a lot about this since I started blogging and working on the OpenSolaris project, and my views have evolved. To me, this is all about business, and good business is all about basic common sense. Every entrepreneur I've ever met in every industry knows this instinctively. Hell, the newspaper boy knows it. It's all about talking openly and honestly to a customer or developer or parter or whoever to build a relationship based on trust and performance so both sides benefit equally. That's it. No fancy "social software" tools needed. No messages needed. No spinning needed. It's not based on open source (I saw it in construction two decades ago). It's not based on the Internet (basic face-to-face networking far pre-dates technology ... ask any craftsman in the world). It's just good business and basic common sense, that's all, and the best marketers know that.

Saturday Jul 08, 2006

Connected Capitalism

I love the term "Connected Capitalism" coined by Simon Phipps to describe how "open source works by everyone contributing what they want without compulsion and using what they need without restriction -- as a counterpoint to people who try to call open source 'communism'. Think Benkler."

That's a jam packed Simon quote from a comment he left to a recent James Governor blog about press coverage on Simon's keynote at OSBC a couple of weeks back. Ben Rockwood also has some interesting and valuable thoughts on the subject. Ever since I tripped over open source here at Sun about six years ago, I've been fascinated -- mostly because the culture reminded me of things I had seen in the past but couldn't really fully participate in. There is so much to talk about, but I'll just carve out my favorite little bit from Simon's comment -- connected capitalism.

I see a nice consistency between capitalism and open source. If open source were really about communism, as some detractors assert, I'd dump it pretty quickly. Not because of any political belief (I don't waste time on such issues), but because it would be incapable of providing me enough value so I wouldn't want to contribute to it. I'm looking to earn a living with multiple and diverse streams of income but in a way that contributes to the community (whatever community), not detracts from the community like the robber barons of times past (and some present, I suppose). If I don't have the ability to get something out if it, I'm gone. It's that simple. Food is important. So is health insurance. I have a significant amount of experience with the medical community, and I'm determined to have enough money to pay for as many circumstances I can imagine. And a steady flow of cash well into retirement should come in handy as well. So, my perspective is especially economic and I'm getting more and more focused on that every day. It's my primary goal, in fact. But I've never been a believer in the zero sum game, either, so that's why I like the concept, culture, and dynamic of open source. It's the perfect solution.

As an economic system, capitalism has done a lot of good and certainly provides some pretty massive incentives for growth. It has some pretty big holes, though, and many people react negatively to the term. Perhaps because used alone it can sometimes connote "big" and "exclusive" and "exploitive" and the connections supporting it generally pervade insiders -- the special ones, the privileged ones, the rich ones, the ones who control things like Big Oil, Big Unions, Big Education, Big Agriculture, Big Banking, Big Construction, Big Shipping, Big Government, Big [insert your favorite big thing here]. So, if that's the reason someone doesn't like the term, I can understand it. And, for the most part, I agree. Those things bother me, too. Breaking into some of those entrenched industries without paying off the controlling parties is challenging. Those industries are not communities whose members openly welcome new contributors, that's for sure.

I tried to break into the construction industry in New York as a small business owner, and, boy, did I learn a lesson in, ah, capitalism. My goodness. It had nothing whatsoever to do with open competition or competing based on talent, better pricing, better service, better equipment, better ideas, or better innovation. Instead, it had everything to do with paying to play in a controlled market, and it represented an absolutely stunning destruction of innovation and inspiration. I had to pay to enter the kingdom of those who had gone before and who were carefully guarding the gate to their paradigm -- at all costs. The controllers viewed their game as zero sum for sure, and I didn't fit in very well at all. In my case, I ran into several powerful construction and trucking unions (I was non-union), dozens of well-connected contractors (I didn't have their money), many government agencies (I didn't have political connections), and a few other rather strange characters (I'd rather not talk about). At times, the lines supposedly separating these groups blended all too closely, which was confusing and unsettling at best. The experience was both disgusting and exhilarating, and everything I believe today about economics and politics I learned from those early battles in the construction business. Back then I worked with some well-meaning business people -- true entrepreneurs -- and I learned all about what creative, innovative, talented individuals could build and how easily a powerful, centralized, controlling group could take it all away -- sometimes violently -- because the leaders felt threatened. I came to believe that open competition terrified people who contributed so very little..

I've always wondered about this though. In capitalism, why can't the individual and the community (or company, government, or union, or school, etc) benefit simultaneously so the cycle is self referral? To me, open source goes a long way to solving this problem because the culture of that system openly welcomes new contributions from creative, innovative individuals anywhere -- and the more the better. This is not necessarily exclusive to open source software development; it's probably present in other engineering and scientific disciplines as well. I sure saw it at Tufts University where I worked for a few years with physicians, veterinarians, and a variety of researchers. Heck, I bet any true craftsman or artist in any field would get this concept of individual, contribution, community. In other words, the community benefits but so does the individual contributing. In fact, the more one contributes, the more one benefits. It's that whole "you get out of it what you put into it" thing, and it supports the notion of enlightened self interest, which Simon rightly explains can be a problematic term but one I have no problem with (other than the fact that I need to assert it much more often). So, you enrich the commons and all the individual people within the community managing the commons benefit as well, and those especially hard working people have a limitless opportunity at their fingertips. Opportunity is there for all but it's proportional to how hard one works and how much one contributes. And around it goes. Generally speaking, of course. And by "enrich" I don't necessarily mean only in pure monetary terms. Rich means many things to many people: money, reputation, connections, access to shared resources, conservation, safety, insurance, learning, skill development, contribution, feeling of well being, donations, participation, desire to help others, etc. Simon explains all this much better, of course, but I'm trying to understand it based on my past experiences and on my future plans.

Now, elements of this absolutely remind me of capitalism -- but a very, very special form of capitalism. It's called entrepreneurialism. Small capitalism, I guess. Capitalism for the little guy. Capitalism the way it should be. Capitalism where everyone is welcome to participate and dare and risk. Capitalism that the old capitalists and the old communists would both have a hard time dealing with. That's the kind of capitalism I like. I just call it entrepreneurialism because my perspective starts with an independent individual being able to take care of him/herself so as not to be a burden but to do so by being connected so contributions benefit all. I think small entrepreneurs understand this more than big capitalists do (yes I'm splitting hairs a bit here) because the entrepreneurs usually start small and depend heavily on connections to others for resources, whereas those big capitalists tend to rely more on buying their way around since they already have lots of resources. It's certainly not true in all cases, but that's what I've seen along my way.

So, when Simon puts "connected" in front of the term "capitalism" it gives the entire principle a new, de-centralized, individual, empowering feeling and that's something every entrepreneur can understand. Hard work, perseverance, talent, skill, opportunity, luck. Not for Big Enterprise, but for the individuals who can't help but dream of what's possible. In this context, the term "connected" is critically important because it implies rather directly that for all this to work one has to connect to the community and help manage the stuff in the commons. Connected also implies responsibility, and if you are connected to people rather than capital it's more important that you do the right thing, not necessarily the most profitable and selfish thing. It's the connection to the community that creates the opportunity to create individual value, and that's what has hooked me. It solves my problem. I can be entrepreneurial without being a robber baron. The elite wouldn't understand this because they are not connected to anyone other than elitists like themselves. Whatever economic system they use in whatever society they live tends to exploit the commons, not contribute to it, and over time that pisses people off on all sides of the political, economic, and social fence.

"Connected Capitalism" works well for me. And I've yet to see a more powerful expression of the entrepreneurial spirit than the dynamics of a thriving community. Have you?

Friday Jul 07, 2006

They Only Wanted Java?

I enjoy reading quotes by former Sun executives. I think I've seen these two quotes before, but they seem to pop up from time to time. And with Java opening, I bet we see a lot of extracurricular commentary this year. Should be great fun. Check these out ...

Then there's the debate over Java, the language used throughout the Web and corporate programming. "Java is the only thing people ever wanted them to open-source," says Peter Yared, a former Sun executive who's now heading up an open-source startup ActiveGrid. It's a question that several ex-Sun executives have scratched their heads over. Says former Sun executive and BEA Systems (BEAS) founder Bill Coleman, who now heads software startup Cassatt: "I personally think they should have done it years ago."

If that Yared quote up there accurately represents his real statement, Yared is totally wrong. More than a year before we opened Solaris, our team openly engaged hundreds of developers at customers, universities, and a variety of conferences around the world. People were pretty jazzed about a future with OpenSolaris. They offered valuable suggestions and expressed overwhelming support. Just so you know, Peter.

Monday Jun 19, 2006

"Much fanfare, but not much avail"

[Update & Correction: It was not Dave Rosenberg who made these statements below on which I'm commenting. It was Peter Yared. I guess I got confused by Dave's post. I thought he was summarizing and adding commentary to Peter's post. Apologies to Dave for the mistake.]

Dave Rosenberg writes about how he thinks open source has changed the business models of some big companies -- Big Company Behavior Patterns Around Open Source. This is how Sun is reacting -- according to Rosenberg, I mean:

We're Open, Too - Sun
"We're Open, Too" players open source their competing proprietary products long after a successful open source project has eclipsed their proprietary alternatives. Sun open sources their products in this way to much fanfare, but not much avail, examples include Solaris vs. Linux, NetBeans vs. Eclipse, SunONE Application Server vs. JBOSS, SPARC vs. x86, etc. This strategy is a stark contrast to the IBM "join the party" strategy, where IBM takes the best of their proprietary products and adds it to existing successful open source project like Linux.

Wrong on many fronts. Simon Phipps points out most of the errors in a comment to the original post. I couldn't find a permalink to comments in the blog, but you can easily find it off the main post. There are only two comments currently. Anyway, I wanted to point out a few other items ...

First ... we didn't release OpenSolaris "to much fanfare" as Rosenberg states. In fact, the truth is exactly the opposite, and anyone who knows anything about this project would know that. Last year we opened 10 million lines of code with one press release and a couple of hundred engineering blogs. That's it. There was no big advertising campaign or proclamations and all that crap. Instead, the engineers led the launch in absolutely every important way. And since then we've opened more code -- sixteen times -- with absolutely zero fanfare.

Early on, we intentionally understated the marketing, PR, and advertising on the project, and I've been a strong proponent of that strategy from the very beginning of the project. Not that we didn't want to get the word out -- far from it -- but more so because we wanted the project to gain credibility with OpenSolaris developers from the ground up, not from the top down with some billion dollar advertising campaign. We wanted to earn our credibility from the quality of our code and from the talents of our developers, not from the spin of our messages. Basically, we wanted to engage developers, not commentators. It's really that simple. Code comes first, not spin. Also, we were opening Solaris in stages, and we knew it would take time to not only release all the code and tools but to also build the community and the infrastructure for open development. That's all happening at the same time.

Now, however, the situation is changing. We have an enormous amount of code out there, the community is growing, and more infrastructure is in place. So I would expect -- and would support -- a stepped up marketing strategy that reflects our current position and direction. The engineering comes first, though. OpenSolaris is a developer program, not a marketing campaign.

Second ... the "but not much avail" comment is rude and dismisses the entire OpenSolaris community -- thousands of people working hard to build an innovative project we can all be proud of. An apology would be nice, don't you think?

Third ... Rosenberg says that we are opening our "competing proprietary products long after a successful open source project has eclipsed their proprietary alternatives." He then juxtaposes SPARC vs x86 as an example of this. Fascinating. I didn't know that OpenSPARC was in response to the previously open source x86 project. I must have missed that one.


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